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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guatemala - Ups, downs and all arounds

Hello Again!

Welcome to post 3 of flormaxation: Guatemala.

We last left you in Flores, about to embark on an adventure to Tikal, one of the most talked about Mayan Ruins in all of Central America.

Tikal, Guatemala

This place did not disappoint, in fact it did the opposite of that... It appointed, no no, it surprised, stunned, amazed and was one of the most amazing places we´ve ever seen.

We woke up at dawn (around 4 AM) to try to get to Tikal before sunrise. The collectivo we took didn't make it there before sunrise, but when we did arrive we found that very few people were at the park, so we had a lot of time completely on our own to listen to the jungle wake up.

Tikal is an amazing set of enourmous ruins in the heart of the jungle. We decided to go off the beaten track first and visit an isolated temple which led us on a 35 minute walk through the jungle with no one else around for miles. It was exhilirating and terrifying! If you've never heard the scream of a howler monkey before, you might say it sounds suprisingly similar to the deep roar of a hungry Jaguar. As you can imagine, we thought we might die right then and there. Literally. Fortunately, we were able to persist through our impending heart attacks, and take in the magical jungle that surrounded us.

Our visit to Tikal made for one of the best days of our lives. Everyone should see this place before they die. Seriously.

Lanquin & Semuc Champey

After spending one night in the friendly, somewhat larger city of Coban we moved on to the mountain town of Lanquin where we stayed at a very cool hostel called ¨The Zephyr Lodge.¨ Lanquin is set in the lush highlands of Guatemala just above a gushing river and our hostel offered some of the most incredible vistas we've seen-the highlights being the outdoor shower with sunset views and the 4 puppies living there (hours of entertainment!) Lots of hammocks, reading and lazing and walks along the river.

Our reason for staying in Lanquin was to visit the neighboring national park Semuc Champey. The main attraction are a three tier set of crystal clear pools created by a river which flows through the park. The river goes underground and the pools are formed as the excess river water flows above it. During part of the year you can cliff jump here, but the water was too shallow for that as we were there in the dry season. We took a strenous hike up through the jungle to a point that looked down over the turquoise pools and then climbed down and went for a cool swim to wash off the sweat and catch our breath.

Although the pools were a spectactular sight, they paled in comparison the guided tour we had taken earlier that day through the Can Ba caves of Semuc Champèy- THE most exhilirating experiences of our lives. Our guide was named Carlos, and we put our lives and trust in his hands as he led us ¨safely¨through the adventure of our lives. We started at a tree swing that went over a ledge into the middle of a large river. We swung out about 20 ft into the air and had to jump off at just the right moment to make sure we landed in the deep part of the river- not a bad way to start out the day and a preview of things to come. Then we ventured into the pitch black ancient maya cave with only a waterproof candle in hand. The waterproof part was necessary as there were times when we were not be able to touch the ground and had to swim with one hand while maintaining the candle above water with the other. On our 2-3 kilomteres traverese into the side of a mountain we jumped 10 ft of a cave wall into a pool of water, we climbed over and through a waterfall using a rope, we scaled a 10 ft rock wall & we blew out our candles once we were up on a ledge to sit in complete silence and darkness for 5 minutes (to list a few things). It was a truly amazing day.

The Guat City Bus Fiasco

We decided that the day after our adventure we were ready to move on to Lago de Atitlan. Unfortunately we chose to travel on the final day of Semana Santa, the ony day in the whole year when there are no buses to the lake from Guatemala City. This was also our only experience with a tourist shuttle, which is like a mini-bus specifically for tourists. The other passengers and the driver got in to a bit of a scuffle and everyone ended up pissed off, so we had to stay in Guatemala City in an expensive hostel, where Max got a horrible stomach bug for 2 nights (when our original intention had been to bypass this city altogether). One thing we´ve learned on this trip- you have good days and bad days, you have amazing days and horrible ones. But then you move on.

San Pedro La Laguna and Santa Cruz La Laguna

After a day of travelling we made it to San Pedro, a city on Lago de Atitlan. We found some very cheap accomodation (like $6 for the 1st 2 nights and $3 for the 3rd night) and some fun places to eat. We had a good time in this grungy, party city drinking, relaxing and eating. Free movies were showing almost nightly at many local restaurants and we were able to catch Men Who Stare at Goats one night over dinner.

We then ran into an amazing, fortuitus opportunity and jumped on its back, riding it until we were rejuvenated and restored. A family friend of Flora´s hooked us up with the owner of a yoga retreat called Villa Sumaya on another town on the lake and she generously offered us free room and board at her 5-star yoga resort in exchange for volunteering some of our time to finish some projects and help out. Flora and I agreed to do it and after spending 2 nights at La Iguana Perdida (a wonderful hostel in Santa Cruz) we moved down the lake 10 minutes and spent 2 weeks living it up at Villa Sumaya. (for free!!!) Our timing was impeccable, as their head chef had just broken his hand and Flora was eager to help out in the kitchen, (which was basically like a free cooking class!). Max mostly helped out creating a marketable cookbook for the guests to purchase since the all natural vegetarian meals were so darn delightful and healthy. Besides that we swam in a heated pool and in the lake, got a cheap and very good massage (Max),spent time writing in our journals, reading some good books, had some hot showers (so nice), some very comfy beds and went on some nice nature walks. All in all a very relaxing and grounding experience that allowed our brains to catch up with our bodies. 2 weeks was just enough, so we said goodbye to our new friends and moved on to Antigua.

Thanks for reading, we are now moving through El Salvador and Honduras and will send out another update before we head back to the States for Jared´s wedding on June 11th.


Max & Flora

Link to pictures...

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